15 Fun-Facts about Tortoises and Turtles

tortoise animation

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  1. They are Reptiles.

Yeah, duh! Many of you guys might be aware of this but for those of you who are not, all tortoises, turtles and terrapins are reptiles. That sounds like a no-brainer, until you realize that what it really means is that they are grouped along with animals who have little or no resemblance with them such as snakes, lizards, crocodiles and birds (birds are dinosaurs, but more on that later). They are very, very different from amphibians.

Yeah that’s our Club. You ain’t invited.


Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Extant_reptilia.jpg

  1. TORTOISES and TURTLES are NOT the same.

Tortoises are land-dwelling reptiles that have round and stumpy feet with toes which have evolved for walking on land. They can’t swim. If you throw a tortoise into water, it would probably drown coz it can’t swim. Turtles, however, dwell mostly in water and have flippers or webbed feet apt for swimming. Sea turtles like the Olive Ridley have streamlined bodies and long flipper-type feet that let them swim over long distances in the ocean. Terrapins are small turtles that live in swampy areas near fresh and brackish water sources but dwell both on land and water.

Tortoise toes are made to walk on land.

tortoise toes

Image Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/7/6115/6385420099_e468d6c54f_b.jpg

Turtles’ flipper-type limbs are made to swim in water.

turtle feet.jpg

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Green_Sea_Turtle_grazing_seagrass.jpg

  1. They have got tails!

That’s right baby – they have small tails. You hear tortoise and a round convex slow moving grumpy disinterested animal pops up in your mind. How could that round thing have a tail? Oh but it has got one – like all reptiles. Female tortoises generally have smaller tails compared to their male counterparts.

Get off my ass, you PERV!!!

turtle tail.jpg

Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Turtle-back-galawebdesign.jpg

  1. No-Brainers!

Tortoises have extremely small brains relative to their body mass and can apparently live without them. As barbarous and horrible it sounds, so called ‘scientists’ have actually cut off the heads of tortoises and they have lived for days. The brains have perhaps evolved to be smaller coz tortoises don’t need them as much – their hard protective shells means they don’t have to carry out fast reflexes or complex predator-avoidance strategies – thus diminishing the need for a complex large brain.

Do they live longer coz they have smaller brains? If proved right, that would be really awesome. The two factors might not be linked – but seems probable. Stress kills – so less of brain => less stress => happy & long life (pun intended). But I am actually hoping that scientists do find a correlation – and then the next time someone asks you the secret for a long healthy life, tell them – ‘Well, maybe you just need to stop using your brains for a while!’

  1. The SHELL is indispensable – They can’t crawl out of their shells. And yes they can feel all the ‘touching n rubbing’!

Let’s be frank – the shell of a tortoise is its most distinctive characteristic – it’s the essence – a tortoise without its shell is not a tortoise. The shells of tortoises and turtles are developed as part of their ribs and skin and if you forcibly rip apart the shell of a tortoise, you would kill it. It is as integral a part of their bodies as the skin and bones in humans.

That’s me, sans myself!

turtle skeleton with shell.jpg

Image Source: http://www.dkfindout.com/uk/animals-and-nature/reptiles/inside-tortoise/

Turtles can retract their heads inside their shells, either backwards or sideways. Turtle shells weigh less compared to those of tortoises since they need to stay afloat and swim in water – with heavy shells the buoyant force will be so less that they would just sink.

These shells have an inner layer of bony plates covered by an outer layer of horny shields called scutes. The growth rings on the scutes can be used to estimate the approximate age of a tortoise.

Quite unknown to most people, the shell is present not just on the upper part of the tortoise body but extends to the lower part as well, with the lower shell and upper shell being known as the Plastron and Carapace respectively.

Interestingly enough, these lifeless-looking shells have nerve endings, so tortoises and turtles can sense you touching or patting their shells, much the same way as you can sense someone touching your fingernails. Interesting, hun?

  1. Tortoises and Turtles are Amniotes.

Being amniotes means they can’t lay eggs underwater. This means although sea turtles rarely leave ocean during their lifetime, they do have to come ashore to lay their eggs. Some species, such as the Olive Ridley sea turtle, have a homing characteristic, in the sense that the females return to the same shore where they were born in order to lay their eggs.

Those eggs look pretty darn rough


Image Source: http://www.primaryschoolpoems.com/#/tortoise/4550777217

  1. They dig burrows.

Because tortoises and turtles are cold-blooded which is a pretty common thing in reptiles, their body temperatures change according to the changes in ambient temperature. They are ectotherms – which means their internal heat sources have negligible effect, if any, in controlling their body temperature. So in order to maintain their body temperature, tortoises in dry hot habitats can dig burrows to remain cool underground, and turtles in cold temperatures can burrow into the mud to stay warm. Female tortoises also dig burrows for nesting.

Watch this video of an African Spur-thighed Tortoise Digging a Burrow. Boy it’s throwing out the sand like hell… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OswQqfPhdA

  1. Keep em going:

Tortoises have one of the longest life-spans of all living organisms, with many individuals reported to have lived past 150 years. Unlike most other animals, the organs of a tortoise does not break down or become less efficient over time, prompting researchers to look for longevity genes in their genome.

Beat it Dude, I m gonna be living long after you are gone!

turtle lifespan.jpg

Image Source: http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/sites/default/files/juicebox_slides/tortoise_galapagos_gang.jpg

  1. Going Teeth-less

As evidence suggests, during the course of evolution, turtles lost their teeth about 150-200 million years ago. How does that happen? I mean, didn’t they have any use for them any more? Anyway, they use their jaws (which are covered with horny ridges) to chew food. Unlike other reptiles, tortoises can’t catch their prey by ejecting their tongues out in the air.

Can you see my teeth bro?tortoise teeth

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/phws/4093609053

  1. Turtles can’t breathe underwater

Although they live in oceans, turtles must surface in regular intervals (just like whales) in order to breathe air. Some turtles, however, have apparently developed mechanisms to take up dissolved oxygen from water through special tissues and structures, much like gills in fishes.

Lets get some fresh air


Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Chelonia_mydas_got_to_the_surface_to_breath.jpg

  1. The Ladies are HOT!

In some species, the ambient temperature determines whether the egg will develop into a male or a female turtle. Higher temperature generally leads to a female being born, coz, well, the ladies are pretty hot 😀

  1. Home Alone

There are no known species of turtles in which the mother comes to care for her babies during or after the hatching. After the shell breaks, the hatchlings are all alone and extremely vulnerable to predators, completely at the mercy of nature. As soon as they pop out of the egg, they start moving towards the sea, much like programmed robots. Unfortunately, owing to their vulnerability, most are eaten by predators, both on land and in sea, and in some species as low as 1 out of 1000 actually survives to be an adult.

Turtle hatchlings marching towards the sea, their home.


Image Source: http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/FB/FB57027E-6766-461F-8B20-495821427BF6/Presentation.Large/Green-turtle-hatchlings-heading-towards-the-sea.jpg

  1. Barren Antarctica

Like many species of animals, turtles and tortoises are found on all continents except Antarctica. Interestingly, tortoises are not natively found in Australia whereas turtles are.

  1. The Big Guns and the Baby Boys

Tortoises can vary a lot when it comes to size – ranging from species of giant tortoises such as the Galapagos Giant Tortoise that can grow up to 1.3 m and weigh more than 400 kg to very small-sized species such as the Speckled Tortoise whose adult individuals would fit easily in your palm.

Most Giant Tortoises went extinct at around the same time as the appearance of man, and it is possible that the early humans used to hunt them for food.

How they met – Hello, Big Ben. Hello, Tiny Tim.


Image Source: http://img.xcitefun.net/users/2010/06/190558,xcitefun-smallest-animals-10.jpg

  1. They don’t Breathe Like We Do!

They don’t even breathe like other reptiles do. Reason? That big-ass dome-shaped shell over their bodies. Because of the heavy shell, a simple expansion and contraction of ribs is not possible in case of tortoises. To solve this, they have evolved two different patterns of breathing.

They pull air into their mouths and push it into their lungs via oscillations of the floor of the throat. Secondly, when the abdominal muscles that cover the posterior opening of the shell contract, the internal volume of the shell increases, drawing air into the lungs, allowing these muscles to function in much the same way as the mammalian diaphragm. (Source: Wikipedia)

Oh yeah, I am gonna bang that…

tortoise mating

Image Source: http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/9D/9DE16BD9-CD0B-4755-BE1C-4424B7FB85AA/Presentation.Large/South-American-yellow-footed-tortoises-mating.jpg

Many species of tortoises and turtles all around the world are endangered today, mostly due to habitat destruction owing to anthropogenic activities. It’s our collective responsibility to help conserve the remaining members of these wonderful but highly vulnerable reptiles. Reptiles are in fact some of the oldest animals to be still living, and that’s really something to be proud of. They have been hardy and versatile and have seen the highs and lows of so much of earth history. Tortoises even look like the creatures from some old creepy book with their rough texture and scales and disinterested silent-evil eyes. They have within them a piece of the earth’s history that can never be regained if they are gone. Help create awareness and do every bit you can to help save these awesome creatures.

Hope you liked the post. Your comments are most welcome 🙂


Until next time, goodbye and take care



What Makes Us Happy?

I had read enough. I had thought enough. I was the mascot of paralysis by analysis. I still am.

I suddenly realized that I was done with reading on happiness, passion, purpose, motivation, money, power, fame, etcetera and etcetera. Yeah right, the usual shit. I needed none of that. None.

I stopped trying to chase happiness when I realized I would never get there. Happiness was an illusion that vanished as soon as I thought of it. It just happened to visit me, sometimes, because of factors completely unrelated, as did frustration. Getting stuck in a bad traffic can make a normal day seem extremely frustrating. Happiness was fleeting – it was a state so unreliable and feeble that to make it a life goal seemed very flimsy and silly.

It felt so much more peaceful after I realized that it’s been a folly all the way. Screw happiness. Just focus on your business, happiness will come around and pay a visit when it has to.

It would be a disaster for genetics and evolution if we became permanently happy. Our full spectrum of emotions keeps us ‘malleable’. Without ups and downs, life takes a hit. Without the bends and turns and slopes and potholes, the journey takes a hit.

So if I wasn’t chasing happiness, what was I after? I don’t know. Maybe a state where I feel my existence is more satisfying. A state where I would rise above the whims of my emotions to a new calm, and focus on things that really matter.

Emotions are silly little temporary things – to accord any more importance to them than they deserve is falling prey to them. You will be happy, you will be depressed, you will feel bored, you will feel excited, you will feel a lot of other things, but what really matters is that you carry on doing what matters to you.

All right. No more BS.

I was happy.

I was relaxed.

I felt great.

I had found the Holy Grail – the ingredients I needed in order to get ‘there’.

If you want to be happy for life, this is your answer. Screw waiting for your passion. Screw pondering over ‘doing what you love’. Screw waiting for your motivation and purpose. Do the following if you need to be really happy.

The 9 Ingredients for Life-long Happiness (in no particular order)

  1. Mastery and a sense of achievement – Getting better at something – does not really matter what it is. As long as you are continually improving on your work or skills, you would feel the rush of challenges and achievements – you would feel more alive. The greater the challenges, the greater the sense of achievement. This is why low-risk mundane jobs are so damn frustrating. Challenging yourself and problem-solving is a must. Get really involved. It’s an excellent way of being in the ‘flow’ – when you immerse yourself completely in the work at hand and everything else seems irrelevant.
  2. Diversity – Learning new things and having new experiences. Remember, living a boring life is the worst sin there is. You have the power to create new experiences and make your life ‘richer’. Have a broad perspective and a wide spectrum of experiences. It will shoot up your creativity.

The caveat? There are worthy experiences and not-so-worthy experiences. Try to differentiate between the two and ‘limit’ the latter. Don’t go for just about anything for the sake of having life experience. Binge drinking parties and rash driving – not so cool.

  1. Doing Creative Work instead of Routine Work – Engaging in creative pursuits seems more satisfying than routine work where our mental efforts and unique contribution are not as much needed. This is because creative work engages us more deeply and personally, it forces us to think in many different ways, to explore and find innovative solutions, because of which it is innately satisfying. More importantly, however, the reason for its great allure is that it has got our hallmark. Our unique identity is associated with it – a different person would have done it differently. We value it more because it is a part of us – we attach a sense of ownership with our creative ideas and activities. It’s unique.
  2. Sharing your experiences with people – Sharing with others helps us connect, and we humans being social animals have a longing to feel connected with our group. If there is one thing that has played a massive role in making us the powerful species that we are today, it’s connecting and sharing information. So share.
  3. Helping others – This follows directly from the above. Our ability to care about others and our drive to help others may innately be selfish in nature, but it has helped us survive as a species. We feel happier when we help someone, in whatever way we can. That experience is very rewarding. Why, I don’t really know. But it makes us more fulfilled. It makes our lives seem less empty and more purposeful.

The caveat? Don’t follow this rule to the extreme. Stay away from the parasites and help only where you feel it’s needed. Don’t waste your time and energy helping those who don’t value it or deserve it.

  1. Meaning or Purpose – Being able to see the impact of your work – Again, this follows from the above. Maybe one of the reasons why helping others feels so fulfilling is that we are directly able to see the impact of our work and existence. Any line of work where you are able to relate your efforts with some positive results (any positive contribution to people and the world) will certainly give a sense of purpose to your work.

This is why the Myth of Sisyphus is real – we do not enjoy futile work. For a work to motivate us and be fulfilling, we need to feel that it has a permanent utility or value, a purpose. The meaning need not be too great or ground-breaking, but it needs to be real.

  1. Autonomy and Freedom in work and life – Obviously you would want to work in an unfettered way, having direct control on your decisions. Easier said than done, though. You would have to make compromises, realize that, and put out the best you can in spite of the constraints.
  2. Real fulfilling relationships – Relationships take care of our personal needs of bonding and being cared for, emotionally and physically. Without fulfilling relationships and bonding, whether it be with family, friends or your customers, life would be life-less. Never take relationships for granted, give them their share of time; and remember – relationships are built on trust.
  3. Recognition – It feels immensely great when our work is noticed and appreciated. We all want to be recognized for doing really great work, we all want credit for it. We all want our identities to be associated to our work. But for that to happen, you need to let go of the desire for recognition and appreciation. Focus your energies on the work, and the appreciation would be a like a side-benefit or bonus. You need to do the work for the value you associate with the work, not just for recognition; otherwise frustration awaits you.

We get depressed when there is no audience for our work – when no one knows what a great job we did – when no one values and appreciates our contribution. Try to find work in a place where you get to share your work among a wider and more responsive audience. But that does not mean appreciation should become our end objective. It’s good when you get noticed and appreciated, but appreciation will always be a sidekick over which you don’t have much control. Focus more on the thing you can actively control – your work.

There it is. The Road to Life. Good Luck.

If anyone asks me now whether I am really happy, I would say I don’t know – I haven’t had the time to worry about that. I have got more important things to do.

The Storyteller

Not all images tell stories. Some images are just beautiful, colourful and make us feel good. They evoke an emotion, or a feeling. Regardless, all images convey some message. Art is a reflection of the personal mood and creativity of the artist, and the idea of conveying a message or arousing an emotion is central to most works of art.

Photographers and video-makers essentially want to convey something through their work – the story. Superficially, it might seem that compared to a video, an image is, to a great extent, limited in its capability to narrate a story. Quite obviously, an image cannot document moving subjects or include audio. However, the kind of story an image can convey is essentially very different from the one a video can do. Each has its merits, and it would be wrong to conclusively say that a video is always better than an image in conveying an idea.

This is because of the freedom that an image presents to the audience. On the other hand, a video constrains the emotions of the viewer in the sense that it does not give ample room for extrapolating the captured scene.

A good analogy can be cited in the difference between reading a book and watching a movie based on it. When you read a story in a book, you grasp the details provided by the author, and try to create a reality around those details using your own imagination. You are the creator of the subject’s face, of the setting, of every void that’s not described. But when you watch a movie, the room you get for creating is mostly constrained – you don’t have to imagine as much. You see what someone else has created for you – it’s ready-made. You just have to feel and infer it now.

Something very similar happens in the case of an image. When you see a captured moment, you get the liberty of inferring its content and extrapolating it in time. You can think about what might have preceded this moment, what might have followed it, the context in which it was captured. The same image can convey a different story to a different person – it all depends on one’s perception. It can evoke different emotions in different persons. This liberty does not diminish the photographer’s work – as the central idea is almost always conveyed clearly – instead, it adds to the scope of the work.

With video, you explicitly show the viewer what you want to convey – you want it to evoke specific emotions in the audience. Here, the viewer has to evaluate the content as presented, and ponder over it.

Let’s say there is an image of a just born baby zebra beside its mother. In the background there is a lioness with her gaze fixed on the baby zebra. The lioness has two cubs beside her who can’t hunt themselves. This image gives a lot of freedom to the viewer – the ideas of motherhood, love, growing up, nature. But along with all this – it raises questions – what happened to the baby zebra? Was the mother able to defend her baby? Did the lion cubs learn how to organize an ambush and group hunt? However, if you want to show the complete dynamics of this particular situation, you capture a video of the whole process. There are no choices here – the story is definite – it is what the camera has captured – with the user left to think about what he sees.

So it all depends on what emotions you want to evoke in your audience. Both video and image have their own respective places in storytelling. Granted that an image captures a single moment in time and is hence limited in its storytelling capability – mostly it revolves around evoking an idea or a set of emotions. Yet, the way it conveys the message and the kind of message is fundamentally different from that of a video – and it is here to stay. Video, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive and detailed way of documenting and presenting a story, with a greater number of resources at its disposal – time, sound and motion.

Void – The Hunger for Meaning and Purpose

Why do we long to be loved? Why do we desire the attention of the opposite sex? It’s evolutionary in its basic form. But maybe sometimes we desire it just to fill a void inside us. Sometimes it seems no matter how much of it we have, we always crave for more. It’s like we are living in a fantasy. What happens when you have all of it – Do you consider yourself happy?

Being happy is a very personal thing, and when you have all of that, you might still be despaired. What is there? Feeling loved, sex and then again the void. Again the craving for some more. Back to ground zero.

I do admit that being in love or being loved is one of the greatest feelings in life – perhaps the greatest of all. But in the long-term, the ultimate hunger is that of purpose and meaning. You will feel the void if you don’t have a purpose. You will get all the love you crave, but when you are alone and you sit back wandering in your own thoughts, the emptiness will haunt you. When you are on a mission, when you are busy doing what you want to do, everything else fades. The void is gone. There is no greater joy than that.

Embrace the void – view it positively. Don’t shy away from it and try to escape. Don’t try to substitute the void with alternatives – that’s just lying to yourself. Admit its presence, and fill it with meaning.

If you don’t have a purpose for yourself, keep looking. You will find something you are passionate about. Then it will be easy to commit and perform.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Things you Want To Do

If you were to die now, what do you wish you would have done before dying? If you know the answer to this question, what’s stopping you from doing that?

We all are occupied with our jobs – we need jobs, mostly. But we should never lose sight of all the things that we had always wanted to do in that process. Each one of us has things that one wants to do dearly, things that are close to one’s heart. And it’s a sin to not try enough to let those materialize into reality.

There will be obstacles – you will find reasons which are stopping you. There will always be reasons. Whatever be the obstacle, the goal is to keep working so as to demolish it ultimately, and to do it as quickly as possible.

Often it’s not enough to achieve something – it’s equally important to do it as quickly as possible.

It’s not an option, it’s a need. Who knows how long you are gonna be around here?

Weather – The Bliss of Nature

It’s remarkable how much weather affects our mood. I go outside, I get just the right amount of everything – sunlight, clouds, cool breeze, green trees around – it’s just perfect, nothing could have been any better. And suddenly, bam, I forget all my worries, or at least they don’t tend to frustrate and depress me as much as they used to. Hell I don’t even remember them now. Because my focus has shifted elsewhere – my mind has been filled with a better experience and streams better thoughts now.

We might not notice this but weather, which is a crucial component of our environment, affects our emotions and mood profoundly. I sometimes get depressed at work due to all kinds of reasons, and while getting back to home for lunch in the afternoon, I get even more frustrated with my life. The reason, you ask? Hot Indian summer – it’s 45 degrees outside, and on a regular basis – a heat wave, to be precise. I didn’t put that frustration consciously into my mind. I didn’t go – Hey it’s too damn hot out there. Let’s go crazy. No. It happens on its own. Our brain somehow continuously takes that information into account through our skin cells while mixing the ingredients to prepare our mood. It’s equivalent to the sensation of pain, in a manner.

When we realize this fact, it gives us another factor to eliminate as a source of our worries – we don’t have any real control over the weather. A harsh weather might be the primary (not the core) culprit contributing to your present bad mood. Maybe your mood wasn’t this bad, and the weather made it so. Since you can’t control it, there’s no reason to punish yourself over it – BAM, one reason gone.

Pleasant weather, on the other hand, makes you think more creatively – I have felt so. Your mind gets to be in a relaxed state where you can just sit back and contemplate nicely and let your creative juices flow. And it feels like this present state, this state of being in that very particular moment, might be the best state life could ever get to. There’s no pride or grief over the past, there are no worries or hopes about the future – just the present in its true sense. The present does not have a meaning just in the temporal sense (time), it’s a state of the mind – a state that connotes that you are indeed ‘present’ in the moment – living it. There’s calm and a silent joy – nothing could have been better. Thank the Earth for that.


Every morning when you wake up and ready yourself to go to work – ask yourself this – Why do I need this job? If the only answer you can think of is money, it’s time you start looking for something better to do with your time.

Every work has value for the society and some inherent value for the individual doing it. If someone really loves their job, the question one needs to ask is – Do you love what you do as much as to do it for free? In other words, if there is no monetary incentive, would you still do what you do just for the inherent value in it? One who loves writing will write whether or not he gets paid for it, just because he is in love with writing. Are you in love with your work or do you do it just for the cash?